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Nana’s Sunday Jams: Lullaby - Martina Topley-Bird

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Nana’s Sunday Jams: Lullaby - Martina Topley-Bird

[Banner artwork by the majestic Trav, all of Nana's jams are gathered in this playlist.] 

Yes Yes Sunday Jammers. Hello and welcome back hope you are well, warm and on the good side. Thank you to Will for a gorgeous select last Sunday; a big tune and wrapped up in lovely writing.

Before I get into this week’s offering just need to make a note. My last jam featured a track by Beautiful Headquarters from their album Sounds made up, I only mentioned the contributions of one half of the duo. So, shout out to Dylan Sullivan, BIG apologies for missing you out, improving my research game and thanks for the bangers. Looking forward to hearing much more from you, Adam and Beautiful Headquarters. Big loves.

So back to this week and our current mini tour of recommended tracks. Today’s is a little bit of a cheat, but I really don’t feel bad about it, not even a little because it features the beauty and magic of one the most extraordinary vocalists of all time: Martina Topley-Bird. If you don’t know her as a solo artist you will know her from her collaborations with Massive Attack, Gorillaz, Diplo, Mark Lannegan and Warpaint to name a few but is best known for her long term creative partnership with Tricky with whom she has created some of the most seminal moments in music history. See Maxinquaye, Nearly God and Pre-Millennium tension and be spellbound by her brand of hypnotic otherworldly, soul splicing singing. She’s an artist of galactic proportions and I’m still confused why she remains on the fringes. She left an imprint on me that continuously grows. She is on my ‘hope I only ever see her from a distance meets’ list because actually meeting her would be too much. I did meet Tricky a few years ago on a cold winter’s night in Old Street and catastrophic does not even start to cover it- that’s what gave birth to the ‘never to meet list’.

This track did come via a recommend on a Soundcloud list- so only a half cheat, but I was already aware of Topley-Bird. I had dipped into some of her solo stuff but not in any great depth. Full disclosure I was still gripped by the excellence and exhilaration of Maxinquaye in particular ‘Black Steel’, ‘Brand new your retro’, ‘Suffocated love’ and the evocative ‘Poems’ on Nearly God, I found it really hard to move on. The track is Baby Girl by Molecule ft Topley- Bird on vocals, a sensual, dub love song full of depth courtesy. The track appeared as I was doing something else, but I knew it was her as soon as she dropped her first note; the same shiver ran through me as though I was hearing her for the first time. Musically it’s pretty simple, a fusion of dub, toned down bass and electronica, but Topley-Bird’s vocal transforms it, giving life and grace. It gave me the push I needed to let go of my emotional encasement for her and explore her solo work; all paid off.

Today’s track is Lullaby from her 2003 album Quixotic. It’s a singer songwriter style piece that speaks to jazz, folk and blues, filled with narrative and all held together by this bird-like chirping that is charming, visceral and haunting, detached but entirely earthly. She has this ability to travel deep inside herself it’s all filtered through sometimes-distorted, sometimes-sweet, sometimes-bassy and always soul-piercing tones. I once heard her being interviewed and asked “how do you sing like that” which I thought was one of the biggest compliments anyone could pay a vocalist. She sounds like no-one even though her influences might be evident – she has cited Billie Holiday, but she is a creature all her own. This track is a beautiful accompaniment to any part of your Sunday full of light, shadow and introspection.  It fills me with hope for a time in the near future when Sunday gigs are back on. If you’re not already a fan then I charge you with immersing yourself in everything she has ever done; I think she might be a lightning bird come to life, a keeper in every sense. Happy Sunday.